In Afghanistan, another day of clashes on the outskirts of Herat

Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan forces resumed on Saturday, July 31, for the third consecutive day, on the outskirts of Herat, the large city in western Afghanistan, where UN premises were attacked the day before.

In the morning, however, the Afghan forces seemed to have loosened the grip around the city of 600,000 inhabitants, the third largest in Afghanistan. Soldiers, including members of commando units, and Afghan police, were widely deployed in the administrative centers of Injil district, which surrounds Herat, and that of Guzara, south of the city, theaters of intense fights the day before, where calm had returned. Afghan troops were notably deployed in the Pashtun Pol area, near the premises in Herat of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (Unama), attacked on Friday.

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Fighting between Taliban and security forces

But the fighting resumed in the afternoon in the suburbs of the city and these two districts, according to the governor of the province of Herat, Abdul Saboor Qani. “At the moment, there is fighting in the south and south-eastern suburbs of the city of Herat”, especially in the areas of Pashtun Pul and Pul Malan, two bridges located about ten km south of the city, he told Agence France-Presse on Saturday afternoon.

“The Afghan security forces and the ‘resistance forces’ (anti-Taliban militias) are fighting to push back and destroy the Taliban. We tried to spare the population as much as possible, but the enemy took up positions in private homes. We move cautiously to avoid civilian casualties ”, added the governor.

Fighting is also taking place in the immediate vicinity of the airport, according to Mr. Qani, who appeared on Afghan television in combat fatigues, assault rifle in his shoulder, alongside Ismail Khan, a powerful local warlord opposed. to the Taliban, whose militiamen lend a hand in Herat to the Afghan forces.

“Terror among the inhabitants”

“People have abandoned their homes to flee to the city of Herat (…) this creates terror among the inhabitants”, told AFP Gul Ahmad, who lives in Injil district. Abdullah Abdullah, former vice president and head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, tweeted on Saturday that the Taliban executed a senior Afghan army officer after capturing him near Herat.

The Taliban recently seized several districts of the province of Herat, as well as two border posts located there, that of Islam Qala, the main crossing point with Iran, and that of Torghundi with Turkmenistan. . Thursday and Friday, they had already approached the limits of the city, around which had deployed Afghan forces and militiamen of Ismail Khan.

The entrance to the Unama offices was attacked on Friday, in particular with a rocket launcher, “By anti-government elements”, causing the death of an Afghan policeman guarding the building and injuring several, according to the UN mission.

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The Taliban have conquered vast rural areas of Afghanistan since early May, thanks to an offensive launched across the country in parallel with the withdrawal of international forces.

The Afghan forces have so far offered little resistance and essentially only control the major provincial capitals – some of them surrounded – and most of the major axes.

Other threatened regions

The insurgents have also increased in recent days their pressure on two other provincial capitals in southern Afghanistan: Kandahar, the country’s second city and birthplace of the Taliban, and Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand.

Fighting continued on Saturday in the suburbs of Kandahar (650,000 inhabitants), where Afghan army helicopters bombed the Taliban, according to an AFP correspondent.

Thousands of residents have fled in recent weeks the surrounding areas, affected by the clashes, to take refuge in the city. In Kandahar, people are worried and more than three-quarters of businesses are closed, the correspondent said.

In Lashkar Gah, a small private hospital with ten beds, in which the Taliban had taken refuge, was largely destroyed on Saturday during the fighting. “Taliban fighters forced their way into the hospital and kicked out the staff. Commandos (Afghans) arrived and then called for air support “, told AFP Agha Mohammed who lives nearby.

The World with AFP